Monday, 9:00 AM. 15 degrees F, wind W, light to calm. The sky is overcast and we had a dusting of snow last night. The barometer is still down. This is a “no foolin’” start to winter.
This morning we will hold the last Bayfield Tree Board meeting of the year. We usually meet at the city hall but the city crew is painting the offices today so we will gather at the Big Water Café on Rittenhouse Avenue for coffee and conversation, and to recap the work we have done during the year and do some planning for next year. We are an informal group and usually busy ourselves with pruning young trees and similar tasks, but this morning it will be mainly social. Howard Paap, local author and poet, will as usual read something inspirational about trees to get us in the right frame of mind. We are a good citizens volunteer group, and do as little harm as possible to trees and things in general, and maybe even some good.
I have been thinking more about shoes than trees of late. I have always had, let’s say not an obsession but a concern with whatever I put on my feet. So much so that I find it a major undertaking to buy a new pair of boots or shoes, even sneakers. If I don’t get exactly the right fit I am miserable, my feet hurt, my ankles swell, my toes rebel. Consequently I wear my footwear out completely before I give in and buy a new pair. I try to buy American name brand footwear because I think they fit American feet better and I would rather employ Americans. One can still buy excellent but expensive American made boots and shoes, and a good boot or shoe can be re-shod a number of times.
The problem lies with sneakers…running shoes, cross trainers, walking shoes…they are all foreign made. That is something of a mystery to me, as they certainly require far less hand labor to manufacture than a leather boot or shoe made on a traditional last. Most of the materials for such footwear are American made, so I don’t see where all the cost savings are. And unless one buys the truly shoddy stuff at the big box stores they are not inexpensive, either.
Case in point, I did something recently I will never do again. I bought a pair of supposedly European made high end trail sneakers out of a catalog. When they arrived I was impressed with their style and functionality and congratulated myself on a good buy. Even though they only came in medium width, they seemed to fit well and I started wearing them. And my feet started to hurt. The tops of my feet were rubbed raw, despite a heavy sock. Upon close inspection I found the shoes were put together with a seam running the length of the top of the shoe where there should be a continuous, smooth lining. So I returned them and still haven’t gotten my money back. Even on sale they were pricey and may end up being a total waste of money.
Then I read over the weekend that one of the reasons that imported sneakers and similar footwear are as expensive as they are is that many years ago a stiff import duty, often over thirty percent, was affixed to foreign made sneakers to reduce the competition on US manufacturers, which have in any case since quit the business. So what happens now is that the US government still collects huge import duties from foreign manufacturers, who in turn pass on the cost to American consumers, who have no other choice. So here we are, paying high prices for not-so-great goods, while the import duties go into the open, insatiable maw of the federal government. And I, at least, still have a hard time getting shoes that will fit, and American workers are still out of a job.
My maternal grandfather used to mutter something about the world wouldn’t be right until everyone had to make their own shoes. I had no idea what he meant by that but it is beginning to make some sense, all these many years later.
And I think I remember something about unfair import duties being the root cause of the American Revolution. Something called the Boston Tea Party. I’ll bet most of the imported sneakers arrive by boat. I wonder at what US port.